Monday, October 19, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/17

If you've read these posts before, you can skip the next paragraph; it's what I say every week. (Though I've seen links to these posts that state or imply that I'm commenting on books I've read, which is precisely and entirely wrong -- and that leads me to think that what I write isn't necessarily being understood.)

Below is a list of books that arrived in my mail last week; some of them I specifically asked for, and some came because I'm on publicity lists. (And I'm on publicity lists because I review books and try to make sure to notify publishers when I do so.) I haven't read any of them yet. Many of them I won't end up reading. But I do want to give them all at least a little bit of attention -- I work in book marketing myself, and want to help other marketers and publicists reach their audiences if I can.

So: these are books I haven't read. But here's what I can say about them from a quick glance or prior knowledge.

First is Jeff VanderMeer's new novel Finch, which I have in advance-bound-proof form. It's publishing in trade paperback from Underland Press in November, and its the very last book about VanderMeer's fictional city of Ambergris. And I have to admit here, once again, that I keep piling up Jeff's books -- I have a copy of nearly every book he's written -- but that I've only read pieces of any of them. This one is a detective novel, so maybe that will give me a good reason to dive in here. (It's getting embarrassing at this point not to have read anything by VanderMeer.)

I also got a big package of books from Tokyopop this week -- all books publishing in November -- and most of them are things I don't know much about. But let me see what I can figure out about...

Game X Rush, Vol. 2 by Mizuho Kusanagi is described on its back cover as both being about "Japan's greatest bodyguard and greatest assassin caught in a deadly game" and "hot bishonen action," which leads me to believe the two characters in that first quote are both men and that they're at least heavily flirting with each other (probably not knowing each other's secret lives). I would not rule out actual bodily-fluids swapping, either.

Liberty Liberty! by Hinago Takanaga is from the BLU imprint and is even more obviously yaoi. (Why don't these companies send me some nice boyish ninja action I can share with my sons? I don't want to complaint about all of the m/m content -- I find the generic qualities of yaoi and related manga fascinating, even if that's not my particular area of interest -- but I do see more of it than I expected.) Anyway, this seems to be another "got really drunk and fell into bed with cute guy who I then end up working with" story, and appears to be complete in this volume.

Shinobi Life, Vol. 3 by Shoko Conami is yet another romance story, despite the bait-and-switch of the back cover copy's talk about deals with the devil and time-traveling rogue ninjas. (But I could probably be persuaded to read even the middle of a romance story if it has time-traveling rogue ninjas in it.) The ninja time-traveler in question is living with a highschool girl, and it looks like there's more emotional scenes of non-stop talking than all-out ninja action here.

The title of I.N.V.U., Vol. 5 (by Kim Kang Won) either stands for the four gentlemen on the front cover -- respectively Innocent, Nice, Vivid, and Unique -- or, as the back cover explicates, is a phonetic way of saying "I envy you." (Or, most likely, both.) This one is another romance, though with girls involved this time -- girls and boys together, I mean, not just girls. (Not that there's anything wrong with just girls. Or just boys. Oh, you know what I mean.) Anyway, the back cover is the usual middle-of-a-long series confusion, with lots of names and their complicated relationships to other names. Everyone is tormented and in love, I expect -- and not in love reciprocally, either.

Mikansei No. 1, Vol. 1 by Majiko! is about a girl who time-travels back from the 23rd century to our time to become a pop singer. There doesn't seem to be much romance in this one, oddly -- I thought Tokyopop was trying to bury me with love -- but it certainly does look silly...though I imagine that's the whole point. The back cover also goes out of its way to mention that our heroine's skirts are scandalously short for her home century, which sounds like the Fanservice Alarm to me.

Zone-OO, Vol. 2 by Kiyo QJO is another fighting-demons book, though I suspect it might be mostly about one group of demons fighting another group. Anyway, there's the usual secret society of demons, battles for centuries, yadda yadda yadda, and the title "Zone-OO" refers to a drug that works on demons. I expect it has lots of fighting, but I wouldn't bet against a tormented love affari, since it seems to be that kind of month.

Aria, Vol. 5 by Kozue Amano is the source of an anime series I've never seen, if that helps any of you place it. It's the sequel to a previous series, Aqua, and is set on a Mars now almost completely water after terraforming led to the melting of its icecaps. (I think all of my hard-SF readers have suddenly had a coughing fit -- I just read 'em, I don't make any of this stuff up.) Other than focusing on a character named Akari and being set on Mars (now called Aqua), I can't really tell what the story is about, so it's probably not as high-concept as most manga.

Phantom Dream, Vol. 4 is by Natsuki Takaya, whom the cover helpfully reminds us is the creator of Fruits Basket. This one is yet another romance -- probably heterosexual, though I'm not willing to commit on the basis of glancing at pages of very very pretty individuals with very long hair all dressed in robes -- and I think it may be historical. Or maybe fantasy -- the back cover says someone has "new powers." It's about people in love against some kind of big background; I'm pretty sure of that.

The Twelve Kingdoms 3: The Vast Spread of the Seas is a light novel by Fuyumi Ono, not a manga at all. It sounds like a changeling fantasy -- there are two boys, each in a different world from the one he was born in and raised by strangers -- but the back cover doesn't say or imply these boys were actually switched for each other; it just sounds like chance that they swapped worlds. I don't know the series -- this is the third novel, as you might guess from the title -- so you're on your own from here.

I'm deeply confused about Tsubasa: Those with Wings, Vol. 3 by Natsuki Takaya (still the creator of Fruits Basket). I've seen something called Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, from the CLAMP collective, and this doesn't seem to be related. (Is "Tsubasa" just some random Japanese word, like "sword" or "pomegranate"?) In this winged series, "The Tsubasa" is some kind of a thing, created by humans but with massive powers that various people fight over. (Over near the Reservoir, it seems to be a person's name.) Again, I'm entirely confused, and so just note that this thing exists, whatever it is.

And last from Tokyopop in November is Bloody Kiss, Vol. 2 by Kazuko Furumiya. There's a sword on the front cover, reference to a high-stakes tennis match on the back, and at least two vampires inside -- sounds like a typical Japanese highschool story to me! I have a sneaking suspicion that there's some deep breathing in this one as well, between the "ordinary girl" heroine and the obligatory dashing vampire.

Whew! That was the manga pile for this week, and now back to other things.

In the "seen again" category, there are two books that I saw in galleys (and haven't yet read) that are now finished books:

  • It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies!, a songbook for a very different kind of Christmas by Michael P. Spradlin with illustrations by Jeff Weigel. Look for it next to the checkout wherever you buy books starting on the 27th; it was published by Harper.
  • Sasha, the first in the fantasy series "A Trial of Blood and Steel" by Joel Shepherd and published by Pyr. It's hitting stores on the 20th.
I also have a self-published fantasy novel called The Demon Queen and The Locksmith, by Spencer Baum. (No relation to Lyman, as far as I can tell.) According to the back cover, it's a bout a teenage boy in a small New Mexico town who discovers that he's a "Hearer" -- one of the few (despised and outcast) who can hear a hum from a mountain north of town.

Steven Erikson has lapped me by an entire book despite the fact that he has to write several hundred thousand words for each of those books, and I only have to read them. I don't know if I'll manage to read the previous book (Reaper's Gale) before Dust of Dreams is published by Tor -- I am seeing it in galleys, so there's an outside chance that I can read both of those huge books to catch up before Dust is published -- but I do very much want to read both of them, and the impending tenth and final book of the series, The Crippled God, which will probably be along in another year. You know, it's just possible that Steven Erikson outputs as many words a year as supposedly more "prolific" writers like James Patterson and Nora Roberts; it's just that his words are packaged into bricks five or six times as large as those other writers'. Another interesting note: the spine of Dust of Dreams says "January-10," which I took as the publication date, but the back cover, which reprints the catalogue page, says that it's not coming until April (in both hardcover and trade paperback).

Christopher Hart wrote and drew Superheroes and Beyond, a book about how to draw overmuscled ubermenschen in the currently popular style. It's Hart's ninth book of how-to-draw-comics instruction and Watson-Guptill will publish it in November. I'm a cynic, so this looks to me like a huge catalog of exactly the sorts of cliches -- poses, actions, drawing styles, costumes, character types -- that I'd prefer to see expunged rather than taught to a new generation of still-innocent drawing students. But I suppose there are hundreds or thousands of young men (and maybe three or four women) who really want to draw this kind of lowest-common denominator comics, and maybe even a few with higher ambitions who want to know how to do this if they have to. Still, I'm not happy to be living in this world.

Del Rey sent me a copy of the "zero issue" -- and how I wish we could get rid of that utterly stupid concept -- of their comics adaptation of the Stephen King/Peter Straub novel The Talisman. The adaptation is by Robin Furth and Tony Shasteen, and is hitting better comics shops on the 21st. It has a flimsy sixteen pages for a low single buck, which I suppose is fair.

Last for this week is a smutty book -- perhaps that's why I buried it at the end? or maybe it's just the largest, so it stabilized the pile when I stacked everything up to write about it -- which is itself an adaptation of an equally smutty book. NBM's Eurotica imprint has reprinted Guido Crepax's comics version of that classic sweaty-palms book, "Pauline Reage's" The Story of O. (I remember sneaking peeks at the novel, in its then-current all-white-cover form, in a bookshop in Coconut Grove back in the summer of '85 -- some books you remember.) Crepax's O has been published before, in parts, but this is the first US edition to be in one hardcover volume.
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Listening to: Lindsay Jane - I Can't Rescue You
via FoxyTunes

3 comments:

BenTGaidin said...

"Is "Tsubasa" just some random Japanese word, like "sword" or "pomegranate"?"

As far as I know (from what Japanese I've picked up from anime/manga), 'tsubasa' means wings, or something along those lines. It's been confusing me, too, since this series showed up on the shelf _right next_ to the CLAMP series.

dave said...

Yeah, you really need to read Vandermeer. The ambergris stuff is fantastically weird (or Weird).

Matthew J. Brady said...

I was under the impression that Tsubasa was a name, but that could be incorrect. In addition to the two series you mentioned, there's also a manga called "Captain Tsubasa" about soccer, with this Tsubasa presumably being the captain of a team. Who knows; sometimes Japanese stuff can be pretty inscrutable.

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